Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Author's Corner with Thomas P. Slaughter

Thomas Slaughter is Arthur R. Miller Professor and Professor of History at the University of Rochester. This interview is based on his new book, The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution (Wang and Hill, June 2014).

JF: What led you to write The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution?

TS: There hasn't been a one-volume comprehensive synthesis on the causes of the American Revolution published for almost fifty years. The number of monographs, articles and books, published on the Revolution during that period is huge, so I felt it was time for such a synthesis and for me to tell the story in the way I have come to tell it over the thirty years that I have been teaching.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution?

TS: The argument of the book is that American colonists were always, reaching back to the founding of the colonies in the seventeenth century, "independent" and complimented themselves on their "independence." Monarchs and political leaders in the British Empire always thought that the Americans were aiming at separation and criticized them for being "independent," by which they meant having the ambition to separate from the empire. Over time, the American felt that the empire was attempting to restrain their independence and eventually decided that they could not be both independent and proud subjects of the British Empire. At that point, there was a war that American saw as a defense of their independence and the British believed was a lawless rebellion.

JF: Why do we need to read The Tangled Roots of the American Revolution​​​?

TS: The book intends to integrate the monographic studies of the Revolution by scholars over the past half century into a synthesis that brings their knowledge together.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

TS: I decided to become an American historian in the early 1980s, when I was in graduate school, partly because there were no academic jobs in my chosen field of early modern British history. This was after I had decided not to go to law school, deciding that I really wanted to write books and teach rather than practice law.

JF: What is your next project?

TS: I am now working on two projects: one is called "Founding Grandfathers" and is about the first four Presidents in retirement. The other is about the Seward family of Auburn, NY, the family of William Henry Seward, who was a NY state senator and governor, a U. S. Senator, and Secretary of State under Lincoln and Johnson.

JF: Great stuff! Thanks Thomas.

Thanks to Megan Piette for organizing and facilitating The Author's Corner